The Army was one of the first institutions to institutionalize a set of Values. It was 1998, I was a Brigade S3 (Operations Officers) for an Armored Brigade. As the Brigade S3 I was responsible for coordinating the training that would implement the program within a 4000 man Brigade. At the regularly scheduled bi-weekly S3 meeting I handed out the training material as well as samples of the Values Cards and ID Tags (Dog Tags) that would be handed to every individual Soldier in the brigade. The response that I received from the Battalion S3s was something of a surprise. “I don’t need to wear a special Dog Tag or carry a card in my wallet as a reminder of my values,” was a somewhat common sentiment. After recovering from my initial shock I was forced to quickly think on my feet to deter a complete revolt. I surprisingly turned the discussion by stating that the card and dog tag were not token reminders of my values but were symbolic of my and our profession’s enduring principles. The Battalion S3s displayed their satisfaction with my response and nodded in agreement, mutiny prevented!
Organizational values are commonplace in today’s corporate and business communities and rightfully so. Values help shape our behavior (internal) and communicate to the public your company’s standards and identity (external). Organizational values serve as a guideline for operations in the absence of specific rules or regulations and/or supervision. It is clear when examining certain Civil War Battles that adherence to values or lack thereof made the difference between victory and defeat - life or death.
“A man of Character in peace is a man of courage in war. Character is a habit. The daily choice of right and wrong. It is a moral quality that grows to maturity in peace and is not suddenly developed in war.” - General Sir James Glover
Unfortunately, some organizations fail to fully leverage the advantage derived by a values based organizational culture. In other words, they don’t value their values! Leaders live and exemplify their organization’s value system, even when (and especially when) it is not convenient. The best companies operationalize their core values and here are some thoughts in regards to best practices.
Once your organization has identified your core values, ensure each value has a succinct definition that is specific to your organization. Your values with succinct definitions should be clearly visible, discernable and conspicuously located at specific sites throughout your business.
Values should be part of your hiring process and emphasized to prospective employees to serve as a screening mechanism and ensure that the organizational values/culture is clearly understood prior to job offer and acceptance. During in-processing, orientation, on-boarding, whatever your term may be make values a part of the instruction and incorporate it in your employee hand book. Additionally, corporate values should be included in your organizational counseling forms to include both periodic and annual performance counseling.
Refer to your values frequently. A different value should be highlighted in a company meeting or get together with specific examples shared where employees have exhibited the values in their day to day duties. Even better, regularly recognize the employees that exhibit your values with a gift card from a local restaurant. If possible, invite a customer to an employee gathering and allow the customer to communicate how an employee exhibited a value in the performance of their duties, this can send a powerful positive message through your organization.
Your organizational values should be reinforced, reinforced and reinforced. Every member of your team should have your organization’s values committed to memory. Remember, as previously stated, leaders exemplify your organizations values and serve as a role model! When appropriately operationalized your values will set the tone and create a positive culture in the organ